Not too long ago my daughter asked me, “How do you know if he’s the one?” She had no one in particular in her mind, but as a young lady of nineteen who has friends getting engaged and even married, she simply and honestly expressed her curiosity. I didn’t pretend to have all the answers to her question, but we had a lovely conversation as I reminisced about my earlier days with her dad. You know, back when we were young and in love, and not the old boring couple we are now. 🙂
I shared with her that I had experienced “crushes” before I met her dad, but when I met him I felt as though I had finally found my best friend. I wasn’t on the prowl or anything like that. He simply walked into my life one day like he belonged–and I hadn’t even realized he had been missing.
We enjoyed all the bliss of young love. Every moment we spent together was like a play date. He made all the ordinary in my life extraordinary just by his presence. This joy splashed over into our marriage and on into the family years. Except for a rough patch somewhere around year eleven, our relationship has exuberantly marched on–even in the face of ME/CFS.
Sadly this is not always the case. In an effort to find information regarding divorce when one spouse suffers from an chronic illness, I kept coming across the often cited statistic of 75%! (The National Health Interview Survey is the supposed source, but I personally did not locate their findings.) But still…75% of marriages involving one chronically ill partner end in divorce! My mind cannot fathom this. My heart cannot believe it. Yet, thus it appears so.
I know our marriage no longer depicts that original madly-in-love young couple who promised to love each other “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” I understand this cannot be what my beloved husband signed on for. What he imagined or dreamed. It certainly runs short of my estimations.
Yet we stood before God and witnesses, and each gave our word that we would remain committed to this marriage “til death do you part.” As a Christian, I have no alternative to my word. As hard as it may be at any given time, to not keep my word means to not reflect Jesus. And thankfully my husband deeply believes the same.
I feel for my husband, you know. He bears the brunt of keeping this oath more than I. He goes out in the world, sees all that it has to offer, and yet must choose commitment to me and his vows as his highest act. I esteem him greatly for this.
He generally sits in church alone, goes to our son’s games alone, shops for groceries alone. As a pastor, he meets the needs of others and then he comes home and tends to me. Am I thirsty? Do I need something to eat? Am I okay? Do I want to go for a walk? If he fails to notice a need or remember my rather invisible infirmity, I must offer grace. He is my beloved husband and a fellow servant of the Lord, who truly tries his best. And I honor him.
But as I consider his side of this marriage, I cannot help but think that perhaps the spouse of one who is chronically ill has the opportunity to stand as an even brighter reflection of Christ and His love for His bride.
So often our sinfulness pervades our life like an illness–slowly and steadily crushing the life out of our spirits. Yet Jesus stands faithful–never leaving, never forsaking. The bride He bought with His precious blood walks as a sad, faded image of the giddy young lover who promised Him faithfulness through thick and thin forever and ever. She has wilted, her response to His ministrations wanes dull. Yet He continues faithfully on–ever loving and tender. In this lays the truest form of love.
In the life and hands of a spouse of the chronically ill also lays the opportunity to display this same true love to a searching world.
Before I sign off for the day, I wanted to share with you a sweet story posted this past week on facebook by a dear friend. With Kris’s permission, I share with you one amazing testimony. Please read on:
Planning a wedding. I googled it. About 133,000,000 results in 0.30 seconds. There are few that have not been overwhelmed by those words. It was either your own, your daughter’s or it will be.
This new year will bring about 2.2 million brides and grooms, beautiful pictures and a myriad of planning. Isn’t the blush of new love invigorating? Don’t you love to see the excitement of that young couple as they tie the knot?
Well, sometimes not. Who’s kidding who? Sometimes we cringe, knowing this couple might not be quite ready for the commitment they are taking on. Let’s face it: wedded bliss is sometimes not so blissful. It takes courage. Marriage is not for the faint at heart.
But when a couple does it well, it is truly a cause for celebration. I had a rare opportunity to see true married love not long ago. And I hope I never forget it.
It started with the text. “Shasta’s in the hospital. She has sepsis. Please pray” That was about it. Kyle’s brother had let us know his wife was in the hospital. Again. She had been on dialysis for six years. Renal failure had nearly taken her life six years ago and admissions to the hospital were not uncommon. But this time…
Later we found out that her liver had failed as well. Hepatitis as a child had started Shasta on the road to tenuous health many years before. She had recurring problems growing up, but that all seemed behind when she and Kevin tied the knot twenty-one years before. In sickness and in health…
Rocky. That would describe their early years. For most of their marriage, bliss was not the adjective of choice. The diagnosis of renal failure changed all that. When we would see the two together, there were no longer little digs at each other. The difficulties of chronic illness, the choice to embrace God in His fullness, and the commitment to their vows moved their relationship to a new level. It took on a new beauty.
While her spirit gained ground, the disease ravaged her body. We would visit and the earthly beauty that was hers at their wedding was gone. Aged beyond recognition, we would not have known her had Kevin not been the one to take us to her hospital room. But we watched over those six years a tender love emerge between the two. Refined by doctor visits, dialysis treatments and a rock bottom faith in the God of the Bible, their relationship grew beyond what we would recognize.
Now she was in liver failure. Her prognosis was not good. Weeks, not months. I went to help during the last week of her life and there God allowed me the most beautiful picture of wedded love. It was the last look, not the first. I didn’t have a camera, but the image is etched on my mind. Kevin was sitting next to her hospital bed. Nearly brown with jaundice, Shasta could hardly respond with words. He just sat looking at his bride stroking her thinning hair, his tender love obvious with each touch of his hand. She lay quiet, the usual grimace of pain gone as she gazed back at her man, smiling.
In memory of Shasta S. She went to be with the Lord December 9, 2012. She was 44.
Teary eyed? Me, too. But don’t you just see the beauty of true love demonstrated? Just like Christ loves us. Just like He longs for us to bear His witness.
Truly beautiful, unrelentless, faithful love.
“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).